Images of old California entered into my thoughts as I walked into the Catamaran Resort on Mission Bay in San Diego for the Data Governance and Information Quality Conference that was held June 25 – 28 2012. Over 350 attendees from 11 countries came to hear the latest on how to govern enterprise data and ensure information quality. The conference was organized by DebTech International, IAIDQ, and DATAVERSITY.
Upon entering the registration area and seeing the beautiful view of Mission Bay from the floor to ceiling windows, I thought how am I going to be able to concentrate on Data Governance and Information Quality here? But I found I was able to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and at the same time learn many new things about Data Governance and Information Quality, have fun, and connect with many business associates. There was even an application for my mobile device to help me manage my schedule for the conference!
The four day event consisted of in depth tutorials, case studies and presentations from industry practitioners, how to forums, as well as panel discussions. The first day offered multiple half day pre-conference tutorials, the second and third day were the main portion of the conference and the fourth day offered full day post conference tutorials. Choosing a pre conference tutorial was difficult because each session looked so interesting. I finally settled on “Metadata Governance – Overseeing Your Business Terms, Definitions, Uses and Implications” presented by David Loshin of Knowledge Integrity. In this session, Mr. Loshin talked about the importance of having standardized business terms. Our natural language is often imprecise and leads to confusion in implementing systems and processes. Depending on the context, the same term may have different meanings or different terms may actually mean the same thing. He presented a detailed methodology and approach for creating standardized business terms based on business policy and how to operationalize the terms using a metadata repository with oversight processes to understand and document how the terms are being used throughout the enterprise. It was a very informative and well thought out presentation and methodology. The session provided me with good practical tools I can use to help my clients.
Making a decision about the afternoon session was equally difficult and I decided on “The First 11 Steps to Starting a World-Class Enterprise Data Stewardship & Governance Program” by David Marco of EW Solutions. Mr. Marco was a dynamic speaker. He focused on the bigger picture of Data Governance and Data Stewardship as a whole. He emphasized that data is a critical asset of the corporation and as such must be managed or governed in order for it to be of most value. Data Governance is an essential component of managing data as an enterprise asset. I came away with a great framework for implementing Data Governance, keys to success, suggested roles and responsibilities, and steps to build a business case and establish metrics for success. The key takeaways were that Data Governance programs are not easy and may take many years to build out. You cannot cut corners and implement data governance on the cheap and you must never stop selling the benefits of the program.
On Tuesday June 26th, the actual conference began. The keynote of the conference consisted of 2 separate presentations. The first was “looking at Elephants Through Rose Colored Glasses” presented by John Ladley, IMCue Solutions, followed by “Big Data Governance” presented by Sunil Soares of IBM. Mr. Ladley’s presentation focused on “the elephants”, the taboo subjects, that no one wants to talk about when it comes to Data Governance. We act like Data Governance and Data Quality are new sciences but Mr. Ladley contends they are not new and if we are not careful, we will end up looking silly. He delivered the presentation with a great deal of humor. It was both entertaining and informative. After hearing the presentation, I am ready to take off my rose colored glasses!
Mr. Soares of IBM spoke about Big Data. What exactly is Big Data? He described 5 types of Big Data: Web and Social Media, Machine to Machine Data, Big Transaction Data, BioMetrics and Human Generated Data. Web and Social Media include things like click-stream data, twitter feeds, facebook postings and general web content. Machine to Machine Data is made up of utility smart meter reading, oil rig sensors and GPS signals. Some examples of Big Transaction Data include healthcare claims and telecommunications call detail records. BioMetrics consists of facial recognition and genetics while Human Generated Data is call center voice recordings, electronic medical records and voice mail. These types of data will likely create new roles and ways of governing data. For example, banking may use social media to make credit decisions, employers may use Facebook and Linkedin to make employment decisions and insurance companies may use social media to make claim decisions or set premium pricing. We may eventually see a role called “Chief Listener” for corporations to monitor the various Big Data. As I post to Linkedin and look at Facebook and twitter, I wonder who is listening and what impact could it have on my future.
Another highlight of the first full day of the conference was the Data Governance Best Practice award. Express Scripts, the nation’s largest mail order pharmacy won the award. It was very interesting to hear how the Data Governance and Stewardship program was able to provide significant benefits to their patients, their clients and their internal organization. Some of the keys to their success included the use of “Sponsor Maps” to ensure they received the on-going support needed for Data Governance, the use of a training and certification programs for Data Stewards which helped to establish a Data Stewardship community of practice, the alignment of the program with the Express Scripts’ Agile Software Development which allowed them to create a series of highly focused 90 day deliverables for the program and a strong focus on cultural change. The Data Governance Program at Express Scripts has transformed the culture of the company from one that just uses data to one that values data as a true enterprise asset.
Throughout the two days of the main conference there were four tracks focused on Data Governance and two tracks dedicated to Information Data Quality. There were tracks for all levels of experience including one track dedicated to those practitioners just “Getting Started”. I attended several presentations that described the actual work being done in Data Governance by EMC corporate office as well as Cox – Manheim. I heard panel discussions on Data Governance for Master Data Management and Tips from the Trenches. A common theme from many of the attendees was that the quality of the sessions was so good it was very difficult to make a decision on which to attend and that they wished they could have attended many of the sessions that were held at the same time.
The final keynote of the main conference was “Bringing San Diego Back to Your Workplace”. It was a very interesting panel discussion on the many different things we had learned at the conference and how we can take them back and make them work for us in our own practices. One of the key items I took away was the importance of having executive sponsorship. Executive sponsorship is attained by presenting Data Governance as a solution to business problems. As practitioners, we need to speak the language of the business: increasing revenue, decreasing costs, creating efficiencies or competitive advantage. The sponsor maps used by Express Scripts will be a useful tool for me going forward to help understand what is most important to the business. As technicians, many of us are not expert in marketing. Using professional marketing to create compelling messages and events to promote the benefits of Data Governance and Information Quality is a great approach to get the attention of sponsors and other key stakeholders. One of the most important keys to success is managing the cultural change. Data Governance and Information Quality is a different way of doing things. As people, we tend to resist change so having activities that specifically address helping with the cultural change is very important.
The final day of the conference consisted of a session on preparing for the IQCP exam, followed by 3 choices for an in-depth tutorial. Since so much of the conference spoke to the cultural change required to implement Information Quality and Data Governance, I selected “Mastering the Human Side of Data Governance & Data Quality – The Key to Success” presented by Len Silverston. This was an outstanding interactive session, where we got to experience tools that help to create a clear compelling common vision, build trust, and manage conflict. I plan on putting these tools to use in my own work on return from San Diego.
Some of the consistent themes presented throughout the conference included: Data vs. Big Data, Structured vs. Unstructured Data, Executive sponsorship, Making the business case, It’s not about technology, it’s about changing the culture. There were many success stories along with tools and techniques to help the attendees become more successful. In the end, I learned valuable information to make me a better professional at Data Governance and Information Quality. I had a great deal of fun and enjoyed the beautiful environment in San Diego, but most of all I had the opportunity to reconnect with many like- minded professionals and meet many new ones. What I will remember most is the passion that this committed group of professionals has for making the world a better place by implementing Data Governance and Information Quality as well as a passion for helping each other become better professionals. I am looking forward to the Data Governance Winter Conference scheduled to be held December 3-5, 2012 in Fort Lauderdale, FL